Canterbury, a busy market city with much of its medieval character intact, is famous as the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Church. Designated as one of Britain’s Heritage Cities, Canterbury is also a cultural and entertainment destination boasting numerous things to see and do.
Shoppers will want to check out the historic streets of the King’s Mile, with its specialty shops, galleries, and cafés. Must-dos include The Canterbury Tales, with its re-creation of the sights, sounds, and smells of Chaucer’s medieval England, and the Canterbury Roman Museum, a fascinating look into the city’s Roman roots. Sports fans should check the schedule of the Kent County Cricket Club’s Spitfire Ground, St. Lawrence, widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cricket grounds in the country.
Canterbury does not have its own airport. The nearest international airports to Canterbury are London Gatwick (106km), London City (95km) and London Heathrow. If you fly into one of these airports with your final destination being Canterbury, you’ll want to travel the last leg of your trip in style in a chauffeured service such as Cars Exec which specializes in airport transport to and from Canterbury.
The annual two-week Canterbury Festival, held each fall, is one of the most important cultural events in South East England. Attracting audiences of up to 70,000 people, the festival crams in an impressive 200 things to do, including classical music, contemporary dance, comedy, world music, theater, lectures, and visual arts. The venues are as impressive as the events, which include Canterbury Cathedral and the Marlowe Theater. Another festival worth visiting is Stour Music, a 10-day event held each June that incorporates opera, choral and chamber concerts, as well as recitals.
Celebrate the Arts
As you would expect in such a cultural city, the arts feature heavily among Canterbury’s attractions. The Marlowe Theatre was rebuilt in 2011 and now boasts an eye-catching contemporary design in the city centre. Named after the area’s most important playwright, Christopher Marlowe, it seats 1,200 and plays host to all sorts of exciting shows, plays and concerts. This month sees shows including The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time (6 – 11 March) and The Commitments (20 – 25 March). Another theatre is set within the University of Kent. The Gulbenkian is open to the public and features a 340-seat theatre, a 300-seat cinema and a café.
The Canterbury Tales
A visit to The Canterbury Tales attraction on St. Margaret’s Street is a must. As the name implies, the museum is dedicated to the life and times of English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. Credited by scholars as the “Father of English Literature” (he predates Shakespeare by some 200 years), Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales are brought to life in an interactive mock 14th-century pilgrimage from London to Canterbury. If possible, time your visit to catch the Chaucer Festival, a celebration each August that pays tribute to the author’s work.
Westgate Towers Museum and Viewpoint
Situated, as its name suggests, at the westernmost point of the old city’s boundary, Westgate Towers Museum & Viewpoint is housed in the country’s largest surviving medieval gatehouse. Built in 1380, the Westgate was one of seven such structures built to defend the access points into the city. Today, this impressive building houses a fascinating museum showcasing the history of the city along with its own storied past. A highlight for most is the opportunity to visit an original “felon’s” cell dating from the early 19th century (the building once served as a jail and police station). And, of course, there’s the view. Standing more than 60 feet high, the roof of the Westgate offers spectacular panoramic views across the historic city and its old medieval center, as well as the surrounding parks and gardens adjacent to the River Stour.
Shopping and Eating
A visit to Canterbury may feel like stepping into the past but if shopping is your priority, this city offers a thoroughly modern shopping experience too. Whitefriars is an open-air shopping centre with everything from Zara and Next to Primark and M&S. A flagship Fenwicks store is the heart of the centre and with the town’s busy bus stop just behind it, it makes nipping in to the shops a lot easier. If you’ve the services of Cars Exec for airport transfer service to Canterbury, you may just want to continue using their services for a short driving tour of the city. Take some mental notes along the way of places you’ll want to return to later for shopping or dining.
But the city also boasts numerous independent shops and businesses – the majority of which can be found in the King’s Mile area. Foodies are extremely well looked after here too, with every kind of chain restaurant and independent eatery. Some to try include Café St Pierre, Tiny Tim’s Tearoom, The Ambrette and Café des Amis. For cocktails in a unique setting try The Pound Bar & Kitchen in what was once the city goal and outside of the city head to The Tyler’s Kiln gastropub in the tiny village of Tyler Hill.
St Augustine’s Abbey
St. Augustine’s Abbey (1846), an English Heritage property just outside the city walls, is home to the remains of the abbey founded by St. Augustine in 604. St. Augustine’s Gate and the Cemetery Gate date from the 13th century, and are where the foundations of the old abbey church and the graves of St. Augustine, King Ethelbert, and his wife Queen Bertha have been found. There are also excavated remains of the early Saxon Church of St. Pancras, including rare Roman artifacts.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, striking Canterbury Cathedral reflects components of various architectural styles from different centuries. A must-visit when in Canterbury, it’s famous for having been the place where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170. Becket had crossed paths with Henry II, whose knights misinterpreted a comment he made wishing the Archbishop “gone” as an order to kill him. Nearly 900 years later, it’s still chilling to stand in the exact spot in the Northwest Transept where this heinous crime was committed.